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  • Writer's picturePete

Best Area to Stay at Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu or KK for local is divided into many parts. As a traveler, the first thing when we visited the city, the location of stay is very important. Here I want to share which are the best area to stay in when you visited Kota Kinabalu. This is, however, based on your preferences and your travel mode (solo, on budget, with groups or family).

Central Business District


  • Easy to find breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Good selection of foods.

  • Walking distance to Malls (7 malls in total)

  • Walking distance to Island Jetty (If you stay at Gaya Street area)

  • Plenty of entertainment bars and cafes to dine in.

  • Backpacker paradise

  • Pedestrian-friendly.

  • Plenty of choices of accommodation from 5 Star to dorm sharing.

  • Shopping area for local crafts.

  • 24 hours store & clinics.

  • Near to tourist attraction.

Something to think about :

  • Touristy

  • Traffic is quite congested and hard to find public parking.

  • Noisy but still ok.

  • Beware of pickpockets, scammers & illegal immigrants. But relatively safe as long as you are careful.

  • Not so local authentic lifestyle.

Good For

First-timer, solo traveler, or group of friends.

Alert: Avoid cruising at the Kampung Air area alone at night.

Sepanggar/ Tuaran

Located north side of the city, known for pristine white beaches.


  • Beach feels & calm

  • Local life (along the way you see local homes, food stalls, etc)

  • Adventure seekers like hiking (with beautiful views)

  • Less Traffic.

  • Outdoor activity

Something to think about :

  • Far from City Center

  • Rather expensive accommodation

  • Far from the airport.

  • Transportation is a must.

Good For

Family, staycation, honeymoon gateway.

Tanjung Aru

Located not far from the city center. This little town is only 15 minutes drive to City Center.


  • The nearest to the airport (10 minutes)

  • Walking distance to the beach area.

  • Less noise.

Something to think about :

  • Need to take transportation to City Center and nearby mall.

  • Limited choice of Accommodation

  • Less variety of food options in the town.

  • Traffic can be a challenge especially around 4 pm onward and weekend due to it's near to the famous Tanjung Aru Beach.

Good For

Layover, on the budget traveler.

This is based on my observation and it all depends on your travel style and interest as well. However, if you are a first-timer- the central business district is highly recommended especially near Gaya Street or Api-Api Center. This place has access to all solo travellers needs.

Kota Kinabalu or Sabah itself has so much to offer and you will be amazed by the nature and warm hospitality of Sabahan.


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